Unpacking a Lesson on Relationships

Inhale… Exhale… This is f$#@ed up! Inhale… Exhale… You got this, it’s only 4th class. Yet, the doubt creeps in and my heart rate spikes as I begin toeing in my left foot, pulling-up on that bomber right hand, stepping onto the high right foot, and all I have left to do is step up. The sloping talus field crumbles below into a blue-green lake, sitting around 11,500 feet, dwarfed by the surrounding mountains.

My first solo scramble in the Eastern Sierra took me by surprise. Blinded by my resume, believing I was on a simple jaunt to the top and back. RJ Sector describes 4th class as climbing a ladder with high consequences. How hard could that be? I mean, I have climbed much harder than that. I have experienced more exposure than that. I have climbed taller mountains. I have… I have… I have… 

I have confidence.

Yet, lacking the compassion and the humility to sympathize for the mountain, I was there for myself. A “relationship" developed in my mind, not my heart. A little lie here and another one over there lead to the fixed belief that I understood and experienced the flow of the mountains. Hell, I had spent SO much time exploring, I got this! A perfect example of the lies I would tell myself, only this one I said as I crawled out of my van and headed up the trail.

A long tradition of building one-sided relationships strings together my life. Friendships, lovers, teammates, rope partners, and more were for me. Part of the reason I live out of a van and spend “alone-time” stems from my selfishness and impatience. I want to be in the mountains. I want to achieve these objectives. If nobody can come with I’ll just do it by myself. As I write this, emotional angst floods through me, for all I can see are those relationships that have fallen by the wayside. So, I protect myself with another lie, relationships come and go.

Since that day, I began listening. I began watching. I began unlearning. Now, I read through guidebooks and check trip reports, as if the mountains were another person on my social media feed. Spend time with mutual friends sharing photos, tales, and near misses from our recent interactions with these giants. Sometimes, the mountains and I do not see or talk for months, yet, random things make me recall memories of our time together. Developing this web of communication often feels as if the mountains and I are past lovers checking in on one another to see if the time is right to rekindle our relationship.

It is true that relationships come and go, but only if you let them. Compassion, sympathy, and space allow growth needed to recognize and acknowledge that selfishness and impatience so that you may be present for the flow of the relationship. While effort, persistence, and dedication aid in maintaining our relationships.

Unscrewing the lid to the registry, I mumble, How cool is that?! This registry dates back to before I was born. Writing my name amongst our mutual friends, snapping a few images to share with those interested in seeing, and beginning to reverse those 4th class moves on my way back to the van, I’m thankful for the safe journey.